The 2012 Audi A4 provides an engaging driving experience, impressive in-cabin technology, and surprisingly great fuel efficiency—making it a good everyday driver among premium sedans.
As small families move up to more fuel-efficient premium cars, and even as longtime luxury shoppers and sport-sedan drivers want something a little more manageable (and less ostentatious), the 2012 Audi A4 lands right in the thick of things, with an economical base engine, all-wheel drive, performance-oriented options, and a top S4 performance version.
The A4 has become as much a smart sport sedan as a luxury compact. Whether it delivers on the former depends on how you equip it, but across the lineup the latest 2012 Audi A4 has the lines of a performance car. With its last redesign in 2009, the A4 got a more rakish, cabin-back look, with a more aggressive stance, and it continues to wear that look well. We appreciate the A4's aggressive look and true presence, and how the whole design fits together. Inside, the A4 has a deeper, darker binnacled dash that leaves out the large swaths of wood trim of former models.
The A4 shows plenty of signs of being a true sport sedan in the way it accelerates, steers, and hunkers down at high speeds-and in its stable, planted feel, no matter if you're on the Interstate or just elbowing your way into traffic. The base 2.0-liter inline-4 in the A4 makes 211 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of max torque; it doesn't quite churn out the torque just above idle like the 200-hp previous-generation version, and it seems a little more vocal, but this engine is quite a bit more fuel-efficient in our real-world observation-21 or 22 mpg in the city, 31 highway. The A4's steering is reassuring and firm, with a touch of road feel. It's not the tactile marvel that is the Infiniti G37x, but it's more satisfying at high speeds.
The cabin of the 2012 Audi A4, while nicely appointed and comfortable for front-seat occupants, is a little snug for those in back-especially with respect to legroom. The new model neither has the breakthrough materials that catapulted Audi so far ahead of the competition a decade ago, nor the stunning interior design of the newer A6 and A7, but it's still well above par in its niche. Audi offers a choice in leather and wood trim; the lighter choices give the cabin an airy feel. Ride comfort can be a little too firm for some kinds of roads-especially if you shoose the Sport Package, which brings 18-inch sport wheels, high-performance tires, and a sport suspension.
If you want Bluetooth hands-free connectivity, or iPod connectivity, make sure you check the right option box. A navigation system, HD Radio, and Sirius real-time traffic are also available, as is a high-quality Bang & Olufsen audio system.For 2012, Audi has added a new Style Package for the A4 Premium, made the former S line exterior package standard on Premium Plus and Prestige models, and added a newly available 18-inch, ten-spoke wheel design.
For more performance, and even richer appointments, the way to go is the high-output 333-hp S4. The S4 comes only as a sedan, and in addition to a sport suspension and a host of upgrades, it includes sport seats with alcantara inserts, a three-zone climate control system, and heated washers.